Fellows in Residence, 2016-2017

Michele Amedei

Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art, Pegasus Program of the Universities of Florence, Siena, and Pisa

American Artists at the Florence Academy of Fine Arts, 1815–1850

My research examines the influence of the Florence Academy of Fine Arts on a group of American painters and sculptors, including Thomas Cole (1801–1848), Horatio Greenough (1805–1852), Joseph Mozier (1812–1870), Alexander Galt (1827–1863), and Randolph Rogers (1825–1892), in the first half of the nineteenth century. At that time, the Academy had a very important role in the cultural life of the city, acting as a contact point between the local and foreign artistic communities, including Americans. The Academy was, in fact, a place of training for the new generation of Italian artists as well as for artists of diverse nationalities who decided to complete their artistic education in Florence rather than in Rome. Moreover, the Academy was a primary center for the promotion of Tuscan and international art through its annual fall exhibitions, which frequently showed paintings and sculptures by American artists such as Hiram Powers (1805–1873), Shobal Vail Clevenger (1812–1843), Miner Kilbourne Kellogg (1814–1889), and George Loring Brown (1814–1889). My research intends to address two issues not yet confronted by critics heretofore: first, the permeability of Florence and its Academy to international artists, specifically Americans, and second, the influence that paintings by Pietro Benvenuti (1769–1844) and Giuseppe Bezzuoli (1784–1855) and sculptures by lesser-known Tuscan personalities such as Aristodemo Costoli (1803–1871), all of them taught at the Academy, had on contemporary art of the United States.

Sophie Barbisan

Smithsonian Postgraduate Fellowship in Conservation of Museum Collections Program, Institut National du Patrimoine

Local Cleaning of Stained Artworks on Paper with Rigid Gels

Meaghan Beadle

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Virginia

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like! Photography and American Feminism, 1968–1987

Recent art historical scholarship argues that feminism was one of the most important influences on art in the last half-century. This dissertation reverses this line of inquiry to analyze the impact of art on feminism, thus exploring the political implications of cultural practice. Using historical and art historical categories of analysis, it examines the diverse photographic practices of feminists—including the National Organization for Women (NOW), periodicals Ms. and Heresies, and feminist artists—between 1968 and 1987. This research ultimately proposes that feminists ambivalently developed a visual vocabulary for their movement, thus creating an ambiguous understanding of feminism both in the 1960s and in the decades to follow. On the one hand, as the case of NOW vividly attests, activists largely failed to recognize photography’s documentary potential. They rarely deployed photos to validate their cause, and the issues they focused on most ardently proved difficult to portray visually, making it challenging to construct a strong visual message for their movement. On the other hand, feminists wielded photography as a tool of self-expression and visual consciousness-raising in diverse ways. Activists made slide shows and photo essays for recruitment and fundraising. Artists such as Mary Beth Edelson focused as much on the process of creation as on the final product, as their portraiture and art collectives—like Heresies—make evident. Despite distinct contexts, all of these feminists sought to write a new visual history of feminism that would strategically link women to one another as well as to activist and artistic traditions in an unprecedented way. However, many of these photographic forms also served to conflate discrete feminist issues to the detriment of the movement as a whole. Situating visual culture at the center of women’s rights, this project is the first to illustrate photography’s role in shaping the very definition of feminism. In the process, it concurrently interrogates how feminists redefined what it meant to be female in the late twentieth century.

Jennifer Chuong

Predoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

The Chargeable Surface: Investment, Interval, and Yield in Early America

In this dissertation, I argue that art in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British transatlantic world was marked by a consciousness of surfaces in both spatial and temporal terms. While art historians have long debated the representational status of painting’s richly portrayed surfaces in this period, the significance of surfaces as sites of temporal transformation has received little scholarly attention. Yet in this period agricultural writers discussed the earth’s “chargeable” surface, housewives dipped eggs in waxy mixtures to preserve them, well-heeled dinner guests admired polished mahogany’s flickering glow, painters experimented with the composition of their varnishes, and military spies made use of both invisible and indelible ink in their communications. These practices and discourses identify surfaces as spatial boundaries, but they also address the surface’s ability to transform in time.

This dissertation examines four areas of visual and material culture—the decorative arts, print, painting, and the book arts—in order to recover the temporal significance of surfaces in the British transatlantic world, and especially in early America. These chapters demonstrate first, that the temporality of surfaces was a central, wide-ranging issue across the useful, decorative, and fine arts; second, that the later part of the eighteenth century marked a concerted shift away from governing models of stability and permanence towards models of mutability and contingency; and third, that the interest in surfaces as sites of transformation prompted practitioners to hypothesize their generative potential. As material and technical experiments foregrounded the mutability of surfaces, artists like Alexander Cozens, Washington Allston, and “Thomas Matteson” (the name associated with a furniture grainer from Shaftesbury, Vermont) explored ways in which surface transformations might contribute to the projective power of their works. Especially in the colonial context, the productive instability of surfaces offered suggestive models for cultural growth; and consequently, surfaces came to figure heavily in broader American preoccupations with progress, development, and futurity.

Margaret Innes

Patricia and Phillip Frost Predoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

Signs of Labor: American Photography after Photomontage, 1926–1951

Whether in an idiom of documentary or modernist art, American interwar photography has long been defined by its adherence to a “straight” photographic aesthetic, characterized by sharp focus, dramatic tonal range, and authorial “previsualization.” While postmodernist narratives have accounted for this aesthetic’s discursive formation, little work has been recuperated from beyond its limits. Toward this end, this dissertation offers an expanded history of the photographic public sphere between the world wars, arguing that from 1926 to 1951 the American leftwing mass media served as a key site of reception for European avant-garde practices that re-theorized the role of the artist through strategies of montage, pictorial statistics, and collective production. As opposed to the integral whole of the “straight” photograph, these practices declared the limits of photographic representation, mobilizing pictorial fragments to construct revealing juxtapositions within and across images. Examining the visual negotiation and codification of these practices as they were first assimilated in print and ultimately absorbed into institutional discourses of art, this project reframes straight photography of the interwar period not as a stable category of production but rather, by 1936, as a paradoxical return to a paradigm of individual authorship, technique, and craft.

Each chapter examines one episode from the interwar period: the reception of German models of montage in the American pictorial Labor Defender (1926–1937); the use of the pictorial statistical methods of Viennese philosopher Otto Neurath and his student Rudolf Modley in Photo-History magazine (1937–1938); and the formation of the New York Photo League (1936–1951), whose genealogical ties to Labor Defender complicate the group’s self-professedly straight, documentary aesthetic of the 1930s–1950s. Each chapter focuses on a key publication or organization (Labor Defender, Photo-History, and the Photo League) and visual strategy (photomontage, pictorial statistics, and straight photography) to consider points of transatlantic exchange, shifting attitudes on the American left toward the sufficiency of photographic representation, and the influence of this bloc on institutional narratives of photography.

Annika Johnson

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Pittsburgh

Agency and the Confluence of Eastern Dakota and Euro-American Visual Cultures in the Upper Midwest, 1836–1912

The question of how artists used images and objects as tools of understanding and negotiating cultural difference guides my research. For centuries, Eastern Dakota sculptors have carved pipestone, a sacred red stone quarried in southern Minnesota, into ceremonial tobacco pipe bowls. Artist-explorers George Catlin and Seth Eastman collected, pictured, and popularized pipe bowls and rituals internationally. Such images, created in the context of the nascent, politicized field of ethnology, obscured the symbolism of carved imagery and the cultural significance of the stone. My research places Euro-American illustrations of Dakota art, diplomacy, and conflict in dialogue with Dakota sculpture to consider how artists creatively adapted their practices to the new resources and demands of life in the Upper Midwest during the mid-nineteenth century. Reading objects through the lens of agency provides a new paradigm for examining cross-cultural art production. Portraits of U.S. Indian agents rendered in pipestone, for example, provide an alternative to images of treaty signings and war that shaped official histories of this region.

While many scholars have offered frameworks for understanding artistic exchange, I employ the watery metaphor confluence to bridge the disciplinary borderlands between Native American and Euro-American artistic practices. Confluence resonates with the region’s geography; where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers merge is a Dakota origin site that became the locus of artistic and diplomatic exchange. My study encompasses the decades surrounding the devastating U.S.–Dakota War of 1862 that culminated in the largest mass execution in American history and the forced removal of the Dakota from their homeland, Mni Sota Makoce.

Patricia Johnston

Terra Foundation Senior Fellow in American Art, College of the Holy Cross

Art and Global Knowledge in Early America

Immediately after the Revolution, American ships sailed around the world to acquire vast quantities of luxury goods and arts, including lacquerware, ceramics, painting, sculpture, furniture, wallpaper, and textiles. For individuals, the arts (whether imported or inspired by trade and made in America) demonstrated the global knowledge that was necessary for mercantile success and useful for social mobility. For the nation, the arts conveyed a new international American identity. Focusing on Salem, Massachusetts, a significant partner in the China and East Indies trades, this book assesses the impact of global commerce on early American visual culture, and the roles that visual culture played in constructing federal-period American identities. This book reinterprets Neoclassicism, the dominant style of federal America, moving away from an emphasis on Roman Republican motifs employed for building nationalism and toward an understanding of the Neoclassical aesthetic as an incorporation of global references that expressed Americans’ rising desires for international commerce and power. In the process, the book investigates underrecognized Asian influence on materials, forms, imagery, and aesthetics in federal America.

Margarita Karasoulas

Douglass Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art, University of Delaware

Mapping Immigrant New York: Race and Place in Ashcan Visual Culture

This dissertation explores the racial significance of Ashcan School imagery in the context of period debates about immigration. Gender and class-focused investigations of social problems in Ashcan art have been the principal concern of scholars to date, but issues of race are just as crucial for understanding this body of work. Specific ethnic groups figured prominently in the visual production of Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, George Luks, and George Bellows, and these artists were deeply preoccupied with assimilation and pluralism, mobility and immobility, inclusion and exclusion––concerns that were part and parcel of the immigrant experience in New York in the early twentieth century. Across four chapters, I examine a range of urban sites (parks, restaurants, markets, and tenements) in connection with particular immigrant populations (Italian, Chinese, Jewish, and Irish). By addressing both the visibility and complexity of race in Ashcan works, and asking how race operated across diverse media, my project contributes to critical race studies in art history, devoting particular attention to matters of identity formation, stereotyping, and visual constructions of difference. Mapping a specific geography of where and how immigrants inhabited the city as recorded through the lens of the Ashcan School provides new insight into how changing demographics affected the nation’s cultural imagination.

R. Tess Korobkin

Predoctoral Fellow, Yale University

Sculptural Bodies of the Great Depression

My dissertation argues that figurative sculptors in the 1930s significantly reinvented the materiality, practice, and politics of sculpture in response to the era’s societal turbulence and new aesthetic possibilities. Sculpture is a profoundly under-examined dimension of Depression-era American visual culture, yet the medium’s correspondence with the human body—as surrogate, memorial, and ideal— made it crucial to the era’s urgent expression of particular human experiences. The grotesque gesture of Seymour Lipton’s direct carving Flood (1938), the collective “body” of heads and torsos brought together in Minna Harkavy’s American Miner’s Family (1931), the metallic gleam of Isamu Noguchi’s Monel metal figure Death (A Lynching) (1934) all reimagine the possibilities of the human body as a central sculptural motif. In each, the sculptural body becomes a site where the aesthetic inventions of modernist abstraction merge with the struggle to represent the era’s natural disasters, labor struggles, and racial violence.

Laurette McCarthy

George Gurney Senior Fellow, Independent Scholar

Anarchists, Mormons, Blue Bloods, and the Armory Show: Sculpting America

This project entails a comprehensive and critical investigation and analysis of all of the sculptors and sculptures, both individually and collectively, that were selected for the American section of the Armory Show. Looking through the literature on nineteenthand twentieth-century American sculpture, one finds many books, articles, dissertations, and theses devoted to sculptors working and sculptures created before or after the Armory Show; however, there is little scholarship devoted to the sculptors and works actually selected for or included in this important exhibition. The paucity of research on this topic has been detrimental to our understanding of the Armory Show. The story of these sculptors is the tale of America as an immigrant nation, as eleven of the thirty-five sculptors in the American section were born outside the United States and several others were first-generation Americans. An additional nine sculptors were women. These artists’ lives and paths to the Armory Show as well as their works selected for the exhibition, I suggest, embody and help us understand the American experience in the early 1900s.

Christina Michelon

CIC–Smithsonian Predoctoral Fellow, University of Minnesota

Interior Impressions: Printed Material in the Nineteenth-Century American Home

Printed material began to envelop the American home during the mid-nineteenth century, and it did so quite literally. Single-sheet prints were collected and arranged on walls or cherished in albums; images culled from magazines and books were cut out and decoupaged on furniture; tiny chromolithographed pictures called scrap appeared on greeting cards, in scrapbooks, and on vases and screens; printed fabrics upholstered furniture and enlivened appliqué quilts; and bold, printed wallpapers swallowed rooms whole. My dissertation considers print and its impact in the nineteenth-century American home, from about 1830 to 1890.

Aided by recent theoretical work on materiality and making, my dissertation focuses particularly on embodied engagement with printed material, especially as it related to domestic craft and consumption. I argue that printed material simultaneously promoted and limited creativity; mediated between individual and collective identities; and shaped the way people experienced and transformed their visual and material surroundings. My dissertation includes a wide range of printed case studies, from what art historians usually refer to as prints (etchings, lithographs, etc.) to more ephemeral, popular, or unconventional manifestations and uses of print (including textiles, ceramics, scrapbooks, and cast multiples). I emphasize this range and quantity of case studies because my investigation utilizes a specifically intermedial approach, aiming to draw connections between different types of objects and techniques in order to get at the “big picture” influence of print in an expanded field.

This project is rooted in the mid- to late nineteenth century, when an unprecedented boom in print technologies and other mass-production processes also yielded significant growth in the domestic goods market. Related to these trends, this moment witnessed widespread cultural interest in creating a home that was cultivated and tasteful—one that would demonstrate the learned talents of its occupants, while also highlighting their artistic individuality. Print, in its many forms, lies at the center of this paradox between the mass-produced and the unique. Materially and discursively, print provides a lens through which to explore how industrialization and creativity colluded, clashed, and eventually coexisted in the nineteenth-century American home.

Paula Murphy

Terra Foundation Senior Fellow in American Art, University College Dublin, Emerita

American Sculpture: The Irish-American Contribution in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

A substantial number of sculptors working on the east coast of America in the nineteenth and early twentieth century can claim Irish-American status. Either born in Ireland and emigrated to the U.S. or born in America to Irish parents, none of these sculptors trained in their profession in Ireland and few of them are represented by work there. This group of sculptors, who were responsible for work that was of considerable significance, notably many Civil War monuments, have largely been neglected in the narrative of American sculpture. Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848– 1907), born in Dublin and taken to the U.S. at the age of six months, is a notable exception. By contrast, Martin Milmore (1844–1883), who was born in County Sligo, and who carried out many public commemorative works in the U.S. in addition to many portrait busts of eminent contemporary figures, is widely known for the funerary monument dedicated to him in Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston (the work of American sculptor Daniel Chester French, 1850–1931), rather than for his own work. This research project proposes to explore the scope of the careers of these IrishAmerican sculptors and their relationship with their American peers. The project will also consider the issue of Irish-American patronage for public sculpture. The commissioning process for public sculpture, the making of the work, the installing and unveiling, and subsequent public response are all rich resources of information about a particular period. It is anticipated, therefore, that this research project will augment the story of American sculpture in its historical, social, and material context.

Kayleigh Perkov

William H. Truettner Predoctoral Fellow, University of California, Irvine

Giving Form to Feedback: Craft and Technology circa 1968–1974

My dissertation examines how American crafters embraced technological innovation in the late 1960s and 1970s. While scholars have sought to historicize the role of craft in propagating modernity in the Machine Age (ca. 1880–1940), I argue that the current intersection of digital processes and handmaking is better understood through a focus on the later “Systems Era.” The Systems Era shares two qualities with contemporary craft practice that the Machine Age does not: a broad appropriation of industry-grade tools by individuals, and an increasingly abstract understanding of skill, driven by technological change. Given their object-centered practice, System’s Era crafters were primed to give material form to abstract concepts such as feedback loops and networks. I approach this project through three case studies: biological feedback as seen through Mary Ann Scherr’s body monitoring jewelry, the interaction between crafter and computer in the weaving software created by programmer Janice Lourie, and ecological feedback through the transformation of furniture into immersive spaces. I argue that these objects allowed individuals to see themselves— rather than experts—as active agents in the process of technological control. Thus, the craftspeople and objects in my study provide a vibrant precedent to current trends in personal fabrication.

Corey Piper

Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellow, University of Virginia

Animal Pursuits: Hunting and the Visual Arts in Nineteenth-Century America

Hunting and its aftermath formed a major theme in nineteenth-century American art, appearing in natural history illustrations, grand paintings of human-animal combat, popular prints, and other visual media. This dissertation approaches the art of the hunt from a social as well as an ecological perspective, interrogating how hunting and its representations structured human relationships to the natural world, contributed to the process of national identity formation, and furthered a range of political and social ideologies. Rather than an exhaustive survey of hunting in American art, I examine hunting imagery through three distinct interpretative frames: animal killing and representation as a foundation of American natural history, hunting’s role in picturing Western expansion, and hunting imagery as a means of masculine performance and elite cultural ritual. This thematic approach puts key artists— including Charles Willson Peale, John James Audubon, George Catlin, George Caleb Bingham, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Eakins—in dialogue with each other to investigate how artists forged a coherent national identity through the development of shared cultural practices of humans’ dominion over nature. This analysis reveals deeper insights into the social history of the United States by considering how the art of the hunt served to legitimize social hierarchies, justify the displacement of people, and model elite forms of behavior. This dissertation also provides a new perspective on Americans’ historical relationship to nature, by demonstrating how nineteenthcentury Americans employed hunting imagery to rationalize and even celebrate ecological and environmental destruction.

William Pressly

Senior Fellow, University of Maryland, Emeritus

America's Paper Money: A Canvas for an Emerging Nation

The rich variety of imagery to be found on American paper money from the colonial period through the nineteenth century has long been recognized and appreciated. The subjects of these vignettes include celebrations of commerce, agriculture and transportation, allegories and mythological subjects, historical subjects, genre scenes, portraits, landscapes, idealized images of female beauty and childhood innocence, images of slavery and of American Indians and of the frontier spirit. These images tell us a lot about how America wanted to perceive itself and about its aspirations. This book will be the first to analyze this material using art historical methods. Up until now, the interpretation by numismatists of mythological and allegorical subjects is often literal, resulting in a misreading of a vignette’s content and purpose. This book will seek to place these images within their larger art-historical context. In doing so, it will explore how bank-note engravers adapted European paintings, known through prints, to the social, political, and economic demands of a particular time and place in American culture. Conventions borrowed from European sources take on a new vitality as they are reborn into this brave new world of unbridled optimism and patriotism, which also contains its fair share of shameless jingoism and hucksterism. The meanings underlying these vignettes are as varied and complex as the society that spawned them.

The book will also examine the position held by bank-note engravers. Were they skilled journeymen, or did some at least see themselves as on a par with their fellow artists? What was their background, their training, their social status? Even within the confines of banking decorum, creativity and originality flourished—some even saw themselves as engaging in “high” art with the bank note as their canvas.

Freddy Rodríguez

Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow

Gold: The Good, the Bad and the Mysterious

James Rosenow

Predoctoral Fellow, University of Chicago

For God's Sake Don't Call It Art’: The 1930s American Laboratory and Its Film Experiments

My dissertation takes as its central contention that experimental films were produced in the United States throughout the 1930s. While recent scholarship has begun to redress the previous anonymity of figures like Lewis Jacobs, Mary Ellen Bute, or Slavko Vorkapich, these attempts have largely retained the notion that interwar experimental filmmaking involved, at its best, individual amateurs functioning autonomously. I, however, argue that these experimenters actively participated in a larger, nationwide artistic laboratory. In this laboratory, questions of form and practice underwent trial and error, varying from studies of medium specificity and hybridity to biting institutional critiques. I recuperate the uniquely complex production network that brought together Depression-era poets, theorists, activists, inventors, artists, and filmmakers. My project gives unprecedented attention to the filmmakers’ authorial choices in order to recognize how they were involved in creating a new heterogeneous fusion between still and moving image practices at the precise moment when the popular power of modern art and cinema were being debated. In doing so, I argue, we uncover the kernels of postwar developments such as mixed-media installation, collaborative performance, and the New Wave art film.

The individuals and works I look at have long resided in a blind spot of artistic criticism and aesthetic histories, between works of high art and popular culture. Instead of superimposing an established narrative, I overcome this issue of liminal status by returning to original source material. By letting the experimenters speak for themselves—particularly in the forms of oral histories, published manifestos, correspondence, shooting scripts, scrapbooks, and original celluloid prints—I am able to recapture the influence these experiments had on the American visual experience. With each chapter I highlight a nodal point between experimental filmmaking and other artistic or cultural forms. I begin by considering how the nationalist question “Do we have an American art?” uniquely manifested itself through experimental adaptation. I go on to look at the form that experimental documentaries took at the moment when documentary was coming into form. I also reconsider the role that homegrown, parodic Surrealism played in combating emerging notions of high/low art. At stake is a more complete understanding of the intersections between certain institutions (MoMA, Hollywood) and terms (documentary, mass culture) that were established during the 1930s and continue to shape disciplines today.

Anne Schaffer

Samuel H. Kress Conservation Fellow, Buffalo State College

Study and Treatment of Painted Surfaces by Folk and Self-Taught Artists in SAAM's Collection

Emily Thames

Joe and Wanda Corn Predoctoral Fellow, Florida State University

The Life and Art of José Campeche: Enlightenment, Reform, and Identity in Late Eighteenth-Century Puerto Rico

My dissertation project focuses on José Campeche (1751–1809), a prolific artist who lived and worked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The majority of Campeche’s extant oeuvre includes religious paintings, commissioned by churches or for private devotion, and portraits, executed for the highest-ranking members of San Juan society, such as governors, their wives, military officers, and bishops.

Though Campeche lived and worked during a time of great social, political, and religious change and upheaval in Puerto Rico and the Spanish Empire, the impact of these changes has yet to be extensively addressed in relation to his body of work. Furthermore, previous approaches have failed to take into account the extensive social and cultural complexities of this artist’s position as a Spanish American colonial painter active at the turn of the nineteenth century. My dissertation situates Campeche at the intersection of the numerous changes and transformations taking place in the Spanish Empire and Atlantic World during his lifetime, and uses his work to explore issues of colonialism, society, identity, and cultural politics in colonial Puerto Rico.

Utilizing interdisciplinary methods and avenues of inquiry, I analyze Campeche as an individual intricately entangled in his specific historical milieu, a simultaneous product and agent of cultural change and transformation in Puerto Rico. My work considers the under-investigated significance of the artist’s race, the Hispanic Enlightenment, the Bourbon Reforms, Spanish imperial agendas, creole and protonational identity in Puerto Rico, and the role of images in Spanish colonial societies. Through these themes, I examine how Campeche, a complex Afro-Caribbean figure, negotiated and acted upon his world through his art.

The successful completion of this project not only will progress the knowledge of an important but significantly overlooked figure in the field of Spanish Colonial art history, but also will draw attention to the life and historical context of an artist of African descent whose legacy has contributed considerably to the cultural heritage of Puerto Rico. Access to the extensive resources available at the Smithsonian Institution and in the Washington, D.C., area will make such research possible, and will provide a study of interest to the growing area of the Humanities and Social Sciences that focuses on cross-cultural issues and the importance of colonialism and colonial systems in the shaping of our contemporary world.

Sajda van der Leeuw

Terra Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art, University of Oxford

Earth in Focus: The Origins of Land Art through the Lens of Photography and Film

My dissertation focuses on Land Art, which has traditionally been described as art that deals with landscape or uses natural material in its creation. Historically, two main discourses have surrounded Land Art since its inception. The first is centered on the importance of the unmediated aesthetic experience, in which critics have described Land Art mainly in terms of presence, materiality, direct experience, and place specificity. The second approach seeks to explain Land Art as a form of institutional critique. Both approaches subscribe to the view that Land Art must be seen in opposition to technological media and their abstract, mediated nature—a view that still dominates the discourse of Land Art today.

Several art historians recently have begun to contest these canonical positions, underlining the significance of technological media in the practices of Land Art. My Ph.D. project both engages with traditional Land Art scholarship and expands on the emerging, revisionary work that is being carried out today by examining extensively and in depth the “landscape” of Land Art as a body of artworks intrinsically mediated by technological media like photography and film.

Hannah Yohalem

Predoctoral Fellow, Princeton University

The Device: Objects, Bodies, and Words in Motion in Jasper Johns's Art, 1954–1968

Balls wedge between adjacent stretcher bars; rulers rotate on screws bolted to the surface of paintings; paintbrushes, forks, spoons, and cups hang from hooks in Jasper Johns’s work from the late 1950s through the 1960s. This dissertation explores how the artist employed these movable objects—these devices—to evoke the human not through visual likeness, but through shared mechanistic movement patterns, a common relationship to the laws of gravity, and corporeal structures and proportions. Once conjured, Johns placed this mechanistic and mobile body in dialogue with the text that appears in all of the device works, testing the boundary between bodies and words, matter and meaning. The dissertation analyzes the various triangulations of objects, bodies, and text in the device works, seeking a new understanding not only of each of these three terms but also of the postwar human subject at their intersection.

The project also looks at how Johns put whole device compositions in motion, translating them from assembled paintings into mimetic drawings and lithographs, then borrowing elements from the prints or drawings for later paintings. This imagistic movement, which fosters a sense of potentially endless repetition and variation in each new medium, stands counter to the circumscribed bodily movement and limited linguistic play manifest in each individual device work. The device—pivoting as it does between the material, the linguistic, and the bodily—engages many of the key concerns that dominate postwar art and thought. I argue that it allows Johns to question authorial gestures and skill without discarding them completely: his carefully wrought repetitions of his own work across mediums relate to but revise standard discussions of the shift into the post-medium, imagistic postmodern period, and the interpenetrating models of the body and of language that arise from the device works place them firmly in dialogue with performance, body, and Conceptual art.

Finally, the device works, as variously mobile paintings, drawings, and prints, draw the broader cultural connotations of mobility into focus. From the mobilization of troops to the economic circulation of commodities, from segregation’s limitations on the upward mobility of people of color in the United States to the closeted life of the majority of the gay population, movement and the lack thereof took on new connotations in the period under consideration. This dissertation analyzes Johns’s critical intervention in this broader cultural realm during the first decade and a half of his career.

Visiting Scholars at SAAM

Chiara Fabi

Short-Term Visiting Scholar, City Council of Milan

American Sculptors in Italy, 1911–1949

Although a good deal of scholarly attention has been devoted to the study of the artistic relationship between Italy and the United States during the nineteenth century, little consideration has been given to those American sculptors who traveled in Italy in the first half of the twentieth century. The accomplishments of this generation of sculptors have typically been overlooked, and their works relegated to the dusty storage rooms of museums.

During the nineteenth century, many American sculptors went to Rome and Florence to study, live, and work. Rome, especially, the epicenter of the Grand Tour, was the destination of increasing numbers of Americans. This tradition did not end with the turn of the century. In 1911, the establishment of the American Academy of Rome, the union of two previously independent schools of Fine Arts and of Classical Studies, conferred a permanent institutional structure to this Italian pilgrimage. Italy offered to American sculptors the opportunity to see the art they had only previously known through books, photographic reproductions, and plaster casts; it offered a crucial chance to study original masterpieces in museums, galleries, and in situ. In Italy, they could learn the ancient tradition of stone carving, of selecting marble from historic quarries, and they could enter into contact with the Italian artistic milieu, then particularly fertile. The Eternal City, with its combination of ancient and modern, was the ideal site for sculptors devoted to figurative and realistic sculpture and offered them a new and more complex sense of history. Furthermore, this experience was not limited to a rediscovery of ancient history. Sculptors in residence at the American Academy of Rome had the opportunity to visit several major Italian exhibitions, such as the Biennale of Venice; the shows that had been organized in Rome since 1874 by the Società Amatori e Cultori; the Triennale of Milan; and the Quadriennale d’Arte Nazionale, whose first opening took place in 1931. Thanks to these opportunities, travel in Italy became for twentieth-century American sculptors a kind of laboratory— a place for encountering other contemporary artists and for developing new ideas related to the Italian context, including the possibility of establishing a closer dialogue between sculpture and architecture.

Fabiola Martínez Rodríguez

Short-Term Visiting Scholar, Saint Louis University of Madrid

Competing Hegemonies during the Cold War: Las Bienales Interamericanas de Pintura y Grabadoin Mexico, 1958 and 1960

This project focuses on transatlantic artistic exchanges during the Cold War in which artist Rufino Tamayo played an important role. Not only did his travels link Tamayo to important artistic networks across the Atlantic, his work was also significant to the debates between figuration and abstraction that underscored artistic practices at the time. Moving between Mexico, Paris, and New York, Tamayo created a body of work that reflects the difficulties of merging formalist concerns with the identity politics of the Mexican School. The bulk of my research at SAAM will focus on two InterAmerican biennials organized in Mexico City in 1958 and 1960. While Tamayo was excluded from the first, the United States was represented by De Kooning, Klein, Albers, Gottlieb, Guston, and Davis, among others. However, during the second and last of these Inter-American exhibitions, Tamayo was honored with a retrospective exhibition.

Jochen Wierich

Short-Term Visiting Scholar, Independent Scholar

Artist Ethnographers: George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, and the Choctaw Removal

Other Smithsonian Appointments in American Art

Amanda Josefina Guzman

Predoctoral Fellow (joint with National Museum of American History), University of California, Berkeley

Reassembling Puerto Rican Object Narratives: The Vidal Collection at the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian American Art Museum

In this current political moment characterized by widespread diaspora movements and debates about the boundaries of national identities, the Caribbean case study of the American commonwealth of Puerto Rico stands at an intersection, both American and a “cultural other.” The historical and ever-developing contemporary narratives on Puerto Rico have long been dominated by macro-scale discussions of state-level events, while material analyses emphasizing the politicized, racialized American understandings of Puerto Rico are most often focused on the medium of visual aesthetics. This project argues for an object-oriented intervention into our ways of knowing Puerto Rico as well as a broader inclusion of Caribbean material representation in museum collections research.

More specifically, this research is grounded in the documentation and interpretation of the Teodoro Vidal Collection, a vast Puerto Rican accession spanning from the seventeenth century to the present, which is jointly housed at the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. A study of this assemblage will significantly help to shape my larger, ongoing multi-site dissertation on the American collection and representation of Puerto Rico as constituted through diverse museum collections. The Vidal Collection is not only a notable, but a necessary contribution to such a collection-based analysis due to its unique attribution to a Puerto Rican collector, its rare position as one of very few Puerto Rican ethnological collections in the U.S., and its interestingly fluid classifications of objects as both historical artifacts and artworks. Ultimately, the proposed project will reconstruct and complicate Puerto Rican historical narratives in their contextual totality—merging familiar documentary records and formerly unrecognized objects.

Levi Prombaum

Predoctoral Fellow (at the National Portrait Gallery), University College London

Portraits of James Baldwin, 1945-1965: Blackness and Other Queer Matters of Visibility in Light of Beauford Delaney, Carl Van Vechten and Richard Avedon

During the two decades that James Baldwin wrote his most popular novels and essays, Beauford Delaney, Carl Van Vechten and Richard Avedon each created multiple portraits of their friend. “Portraits of James Baldwin, 1945–1965,” details the history of these collaborations and the construction of Baldwin’s dynamic personas, tracing Baldwin’s rise from subcultural to national fame through the preoccupations of his imagers. In particular, this dissertation elaborates how each artist invested in Baldwin’s assertion that American racism is, at its foundation, a family drama. Delaney, Van Vechten and Avedon paralleled strategies in Baldwin’s writing: they cultivated queer spaces of filiation and bodily indistinction in their portraits, and they actively invited historical traumas into the frame.

y invited historical traumas into the frame. This dissertation argues that these visual collaborations complemented and shaped Baldwin’s body of work. Taken together, these private experiments provide a set of overlooked historical conditions and materials out of which Baldwin forged his creative legacies. These contexts, in turn, encourage new readings of Baldwin’s public presences and enrich contemporary reclamations of his work.

Jennifer Sichel

Predoctoral Fellow (at the Archives of American Art), University of Chicago

Criticism without Authority: Gene Swenson, Jill Johnston, Gregory Battcock

In the 1960s, at the height of embattled critical debates over modernist demands for medium specificity, critics Gene Swenson, Jill Johnston, and Gregory Battcock began to craft objects, write texts, and stage actions that resisted classification altogether. Casting doubt over the tacit assumption that underpins the enterprise of modernist criticism—i.e. that art progresses under pressure of stringent criteria—these critics worked to reflect art more fully by conveying the emotional texture of aesthetic experience in all its richness. Swenson, Johnston, and Battcock aspired to produce criticism that would amplify art’s affective content by crafting conditions for people to become more sympathetic viewers. And this aspiration necessitated the creation of new sorts of critical objects: indeterminate objects that could invite and sustain collective reckoning and creation. My dissertation provides a detailed historical account of the material lives of these new, unsettled critical objects—the very first such study. I analyze how such objects instantiated novel forms of affective, open criticism: what I call criticism without authority.

Many of the objects that anchor my dissertation—including underground newspapers and ephemera from performances, protest actions, and Happenings—are preserved in Gregory Battcock’s papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. I strive to tell the (as yet untold) story of how it matters that Battcock’s archive contains boxes of queer, underground offset newspapers and ephemera. By treating these objects not as evidence of one critic’s eccentricities, but rather as constitutive to the development of a new form of criticism that flourished at the epicenter of New York’s art world, my dissertation will argue for the importance of these (largely overlooked) objects to the formation of post–WWII American art and criticism.